Impressionism from the English Channel to the Mediterranean

Impressionism from the English Channel to the Mediterranean
Impressionism from the English Channel to the Mediterranean

Giverny (Eure). To celebrate the 150th anniversary of Impressionism, Cyrille Sciama, director of the Museum of Impressionism, chose the theme of the sea, also that of the painting which gave its name to the movement. He could not get the loan fromPrint, rising sun (1872) by Claude Monet, because this view of the port of Le Havre appears in the exhibition “Paris 1874. Inventing Impressionism” at the Musée d’Orsay. Other representations of ports and anchorages, dating back to the 20th century with Camille Pissarro and Paul Signac, open the route. There are no paintings by the distant inspirations, Claude Lorrain or Joseph Vernet, but a precursor, Camille Corot, with Fishing boats and sailboats (1853-1859) and Trouville, fishing boats stranded in the channel (1875). These oils on cardboard and on paper produced outdoors reveal a little-known aspect of the artist linked to the Barbizon school: he was one of the first, in the 1820s, to go from Paris to Honfleur to paint . A small etching, Sunset. Port of Antwerp (1868) by Johan Barthold Jongkind, an artist whom Monet met in Normandy in 1862, shows to what extent the future master of impressionism was nourished by his entourage. With its large boats with full sails, its boat that a sailor steers with a scull and its sun low in the sky, the Dutchman’s work anticipates Print, rising sun.

A large place in the exhibition is given to Eugène Boudin. Monet, who met him in 1858, said that he owed him everything. The curator does not fail to point out that this year we are commemorating the bicentenary of his birth and are presenting 28 works by the artist throughout the exhibition, or more than a quarter of the hanging. There are of course pastels and these little holiday paintings that he sold to the rich bourgeoisie. But it is above all the seascapes and the scenes describing the life of coastal workers which attract the eye: immense skies of the Port of Camaret (1872) and Eure Basin in Le Havre (1885), black cloud of the magnificent A grain (1886) where two fishing sailboats cross the storm escorted by gulls, washers of Norman women hanging laundry on the beach (1865) and Washerwomen near Trouville (around 1872-1876), seaweed growers Deauville Beach (1893).

Dissolution of the pattern

Among the more than 80 works on display are few paintings by Monet because they are in high demand, even more so in this year celebrating impressionism. But a marvel nestles among those presented: Low tide at Petites-Dalles (1884, [voir ill.]), an intensely luminous canvas whose dissolution of the motif announces the series of “Waterloo Bridge” and “Water Lilies” that he painted at the beginning of the 20th century, or even The Pointe du Petit Ailly (1897) in which the customs post, this small house in Varengeville that he often represented, is reduced to a pink geometric shape.

But the sea is not just the Channel, even if the exhibition is part of the Normandy Impressionist festival. It is the North Sea that we find in Alexandre Marcette in On the way. Boats on the North Sea (undated), the Mediterranean with Petit Port (1919) by Auguste Renoir, The seaside in Palavas (around 1854) by Gustave Courbet, Rocks at the Pointe de la Baumette (1893) by Armand Guillaumin, and finally the Breton Atlantic. Monet reported from his series painted at Belle-Île The Rochers de Belle-Île, the Wild Coast (1886), where the agitation of the sea and the sky responds to the sharp reliefs of the pink granite. The Breton school is widely represented with Maxime Maufra – his radiant Entrance to the port of Port-Goulphar, Belle-Île-en-Mer (1909) was loaned by the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum (Madrid) – and Henry Moret whose Bad weather in Doëlan (no date) illustrates this impressionism which flourished in the continuity of the gatherings of painters at Pouldu and Pont-Aven. Among these was Paul Gauguin who takes the public to an elsewhere evoked by his Te Vaa Landscape (1896), a hymn to the primitive beauty of Tahiti where he places “symbolist elements which conclude impressionism”,writes Cyrille Sciama in the catalog. The curator chose to end the route with the theme of “The Flight”. In the famous work of Édouard Manet The Escape from Rochefort (1881), commemorating the escape from New Caledonia of the deported Communard journalist Henri Rochefort, the South Pacific on which the fugitives’ boat sailed lit by the moon occupies almost the entire canvas. We cannot help but be moved by this painting, its author, already very weakened by the illness which was to take him away, seeming with this work to entrust his own destiny to the sea.

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